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What to do if you have a power cut

They might not happen often but power cuts can be a pain to deal with, and unnerving if you’re not sure what to do when they happen. In this guide, we look at what to do when you have a power cut, and what the causes might be.

They might not happen often, but power cuts can be a pain to deal with and unnerving if you’re not sure what to do when they happen. This guide looks at what to do when you have a power cut and the causes.

Whether it’s a problem with your fuse box or an overloaded circuit, keep reading to find out about dealing with a power cut and knowing what caused it.

What to do when you have a power cut… in 4 steps

First things first, don’t panic. Keeping calm and dealing with the situation is the key to staying safe and getting your power back on.

1. Check your circuit breaker or fuse box

One of the most common causes of a power cut is a tripped fuse box, which can sometimes be easily fixed by resetting the breaker. Check your circuit breaker or fuse box and, if you notice it’s been tripped, reset and see if the power stays on.

If it does, keep an eye out for another power cut. Sometimes you’ll have a random one-off power cut that won’t be a major issue, but if you notice them happening more than once, then you may have a bigger problem to deal with.

If that happens, contact qualified electricians in your area to inspect your property and identify the cause of the repeated power cuts.

2. Check if it’s just your home affected

what to do when you have a power cutIf the fuse box isn’t the issue, the second thing to do when you notice a power cut in your home is to check to see if it’s affecting the whole street or just your property. Either give your neighbours a call or pop next door. Or, if the power cut happens after dark, have a look out the window to see if neighbours have their lights on.

If neighbouring properties are affected, then you’ll know it’s a problem with your local electricity network. In that case, call one of the following numbers to be connected to your local network company:

  • England, Wales & Scotland – dial 105
  • Northern Ireland – dial 03457 643643
  • The Republic of Ireland – dial 1850 372 999

3. Turn off hazardous appliances

If you can’t immediately identify the cause of your power cut, it’s important to switch off any electrical appliances that shouldn’t be left unattended – so that they’re off when the power comes back on. Just remember to leave the lights on so that you can easily notice when the power comes back on.

4. Contact a qualified electrician

For power cuts that don’t have an obvious cause that you can see, you’ll need to contact a qualified electrician to come and inspect your home and identify the problem. There could be loose wiring, an overloaded circuit, or any of several other causes.

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4 top tips for what to do when you have a power cut

The steps above outline what to do when you notice a power cut, but here are a few additional tips to keep you safe and sound during a power cut:

  1. Get help if in danger. If there is a dangerous situation associated with the power cut, contact the emergency services immediately.
  2. Stay elsewhere if needed. For power cuts that don’t have an immediate solution, make arrangements to stay with friends, family or neighbours until your power is back on.
  3. Keep a torch. Always keep at least one torch in the house with plenty of batteries to hand if the power cut happens after dark.
  4. Keep an old-school corded phone in the house. In case of emergencies, it’s useful to have a backup phone if your mobile battery runs out and/or your digital cordless phone won’t work.

How do circuit breakers work

You’ve probably heard of circuit breakers without necessarily knowing what they are, and you might be wondering how circuit breakers work. When it comes to power cuts, it’s helpful to know what you’re dealing with.

What are circuit breakers?

Fuse being changed in a modern fuse boxA circuit breaker is basically a feature of your home’s electrical circuit system that protects you from serious electrical faults causing major damage to your home. In the event of a power surge or excess load on the circuit, the circuit breaker will cut off the flow of electricity to avoid any overheating that could potentially lead to an electrical fire.

The circuit breaker is what modern electrical systems have instead of a fuse box. They’re typically located in the central consumer unit of your home – where the whole system of electrical circuits is controlled.

What makes circuit breakers trip?

There are many common reasons that circuit breakers trip, including:

  • Overloads – Often caused by having too many appliances plugged into a single electrical circuit.
  • Short circuits – Typically a sign of faulty or loose wiring or a faulty appliance/plug.
  • Ground fault surges – Similar to short circuits, they’re caused by a live wire touching a bare copper ground wire and need to be fixed as soon as possible.

How to check a fuse box

If you’ve had a power cut and want to know how to check the fuse box, here’s a quick guide:

  1. Locate the main fuse box.
  2. Check for any fuses that have tripped to the ‘off’ position or any broken or burnt fuse wires.
  3. Turn any undamaged tripped fuses to ‘on’.
  4. Replace any damaged fuse wires.
  5. Reset the fuse box by turning the whole system back on. Job done.
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How to replace fuse box with circuit breakers

If you need to replace your fuse box with circuit breakers, you’ll need to call on the help of a qualified electrician – this isn’t a DIY job. Start looking now with our handy get a quote feature, and we’ll contact qualified electricians in your area for quotes.

How to change a fuse in a modern fuse box

Modern fuse boxes are otherwise known as circuit breakers and are much easier to use than old fuse boxes. They basically contain a bunch of mini-trip switches that you reset when they trip. The trick is to turn off all appliances, turn the trip switch back on and check the circuit is working again.

How to change a fuse in an old fuse box

If you live in a property with an old fuse box, you may need to change the fuse on rare occasions. Unless you’re confident dealing with a fuse box, we would recommend hiring a qualified electrician to carry out any work on your home’s electrical system.

For confident DIY enthusiasts, here’s a summary of how to change a fuse in a fuse box:

  1. Turn off all appliances, including lights and your boiler.
  2. Make sure the fuse box is switched off (this should automatically happen if a fuse blows, but it’s always worth double-checking).
  3. Inspect the fuse carriers to identify which one has blown – you’ll see it physically broken or burnt.
  4. Loosen the screws of the fuse carrier, remove the broken fuse wire and replace it with fuse wire of the same amperage.
  5. Insert the newly rewired fuse carrier back into the fuse box.
  6. Turn on the master switch, and the system should turn back on.

If the new fuse, or any other fuse, blows immediately after you turn the system back on, then you most likely have a more serious problem to fix. That means it’s time to call an electrician.

How to reset fuse box

Our home appliances often cause a fuse box to trip, and we need to reset a fuse. First, locate your main fuse box and check to see if all the trip switches are on.

For any fuses that have tripped and are now in the ‘off’ position, you’ll need to reset them to ‘on’. If they repeatedly keep tripping, you’ll need to contact an electrician to identify the bigger problem at hand.

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How much does a new fuse box cost?

The average cost of a new fuse box is around £100 – £500. If you need a new consumer unit, the cost will be somewhere in the region of £50 – £450, plus installation. You’ll also want to factor in labour costs, with the average electrician hourly rate being about £45 per hour.

How much does it cost to replace a fuse box in a house?

The average cost to replace a fuse box in a house will depend on the type of fuse box you have and what you are planning to replace it with. The cost of removing a fuse box is around £150 – £200.

For more information, check out our guide to the cost of replacing a fuse box with a consumer unit.

Why does my circuit breaker keep tripping with nothing plugged in?

If your circuit breaker keeps tripping even though you don’t have anything plugged in, you could have faulty or loose wiring or a ground fault. To identify the problem, contact a qualified local electrician to conduct an electrical inspection of your home.

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